When SF singer and songwriter Karina Gill found out that her band Cindy was one of BFF.fm’s Top 30 Local Artists of 2023, it meant a lot. “Getting that local recognition is really gratifying,” Karina said. “It reflects that I am sort of part of this thing here.” With Cindy releasing their most recent music project, Standard Candles, and announcing they would be going on tour with Horsegirl in June, there was much to discuss. I sat down with Karina to talk about our local music community, how she gains inspiration from her friends and her surroundings, the future of the band, new music, and so much more.

You started Cindy in 2018 with your self-titled album release. How would you say your music has changed or developed from that debut to your most recent release?

Certainly I've changed a lot. Even though it's been a handful of years, it's felt like a lifetime. When I made that first record with my bandmates, I was REALLY new to music. I had only been playing guitar for just a few months. I wasn’t a singer, and I never wrote music. It felt very surprising that it was happening. I feel like my songwriting, perhaps, has become more willing to say exactly what I mean over time.

I loved the story of how you found that old Strat in a basement and decided to learn guitar because of that. How do you think that chance encounter with that burrito-encrusted strat helped you find your way to Cindy?

I had tried learning a couple cords before then. I had a partner who was a musician and he taught me a couple things, but I never went anywhere with it. But when I found that guitar, it's hard to explain why I decided it's the right thing to do, to pick it up and try. I had the first inkling that it isn't rocket science. I don't know, I had just moved to this place and it felt somehow like it had fallen into my lap. That is that feeling that has been consistent with Cindy, that it just happens. I don't try, it just does what it does and I sit back and do my best to follow.

As bandmates, how would you say each of your personalities play a part in the development of your music?

The line up has grown over time. Listening to older recordings, you can definitely hear who was in the band. [You can hear] their own choices, their own aesthetics, and sometimes their voices…always their own character. That's somehow captured in recordings and shapes how the songs end up feeling.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I guess I have two different kinds of answers to that. One: a lot of the songs and the feelings of the songs come out of things that aren't music. They come out of experiences or things I've read or thought about for a long time. So there's definitely that influx of things. In terms of the music itself, the influences I most consciously think about are really local people. I met some local musicians after that first Cindy record came out, and when I think about things that have inspired me musically, I think about my friends. I don't really scour the internet. I do come across inspiring things from other places, but I feel like the things that make the biggest impression are going to my friends’ shows.

Do you think that what inspires you as a person is what inspires Cindy? Or do you find it important that you differentiate yourself from the music?

I think like anybody, I have different parts of myself and Cindy, the music that comes out of Cindy, is kinda one thread or one knot of several threads. Having the experience of having another project–I've been doing Flowertown for a couple years–has taught me that I have other songwriting personalities too. People might not hear that much of a difference, but to me, they are worlds apart. So yeah, I think it's one of the people I am, and it's a part of me that has been the most salient for a good part of my life.

In your music video “A Trumpet on the Hillside”, the video is very cinematic and almost looks like something made out of found footage. What was going through your mind when filming or designing the video?

I love making music videos. For that one, I borrowed my friend Andy's Super 8 film camera. Working with Super 8 is really a gamble. You don't know if it's going to turn out at all, too dark, too over exposed. The video is pretty much everything that was shot, which was not the original plan. When I thought about the video–-I knew it would be a single for the record–I had this image of people sort of passing over. I was literally laying on the ground with the camera pointed up and people would walk past me, that was the first idea for it. All you really need is one idea, and everything sort of falls together around that, if you are lucky. It became this sort of collage of a day we all spent together out in the Sunset.

What is the ideal way to listen to Cindy? What is the journey you want your listeners to take when they listen to your music?

I really don't know. I am continually and pleasantly surprised that people respond to the music. I mean, Cindy requires a little bit of attention. I'm not going to jump out there and keep your attention. It requires a willingness to give it some attention. It doesn’t require candlelight and an empty room, you can be in the subway with headphones in or it can be while you're doing something else and you are able to lend part of your mind to it. Yeah, I don't know what the ideal setting would be, but I do recognize that, you know, you have to be willing.

[As far as journey], I don't know. I am surprised sometimes when people characterize [the music] as sad. I mean, I get it. But to me it's not sad music. There's plenty of humor in it. I don't mean to make anyone sad, so maybe not THAT journey. I do think that there's different ways that one could listen to it, and I think one of the ways would be to try and get the different moods happening in there. To me, it doesn’t feel monochromatic.

Why are you surprised that people respond to Cindy’s music; what do you mean by that?

Well I think, when I started out and even still now, I feel very much like a novice, a total amateur…which is great, I'm not complaining about that at all. I like that state. Compared to a lot of things one might listen to, Cindy is really simple. There's no dancing. Like I said, it requires some willingness [and attention]. So you never know if people are going to give that to you. I think it's quite genuine in the sense that I am really doing exactly what I can do. I think for a lot of people, it would be a nice surprise to feel like that meant something to others.

What makes the Bay Area music scene unique, from your perspective? As someone from New York, do you see differences in how people celebrate and share music?

I think the Bay Area has this special local music scene that's very intertwined and very mutually supportive. There's not a lot of hard boundaries about genre or who belongs where, which is pretty amazing. The more local musicians that are connected to one another, the better. In terms of the non-musician perspective, I think having such a rich environment of people doing these things because they want to, not because anyone’s buying some record contract or something, it's a pretty lovely area.

I never, in a million years, would've done this in New York. I have friends who played music in New York, and they did have a community, don't get me wrong. It's just a much different culture. San Francisco is a really small city, and I think that lends itself to people being more connected and not treating anybody as disposable. We are all in this little town together. There does seem to be an openness and willingness here that isn't the culture on the East Coast, from my experience. Again, this is speaking from my experience and not having been in a band in New York, like, what do I know?

Any plans on releasing new music in the near future?

Just yesterday, I recorded with two of my bandmates, and it was a new configuration. The different people involved reflect things differently and bring out different things in me and allow me to hear things in a new way. I feel like the next couple recordings won't have keys, which is a departure from a lot of what Cindy has done. I guess my plans are to really appreciate the people who are recording with me right now. We are recording for an eventual release. We have the June tour with Horsegirl, and then there's, you know, murmurings of other tours in the fall. I also feel like I make records because there's music, not because I make music to make records.

Do you have some advice to share for other songwriters and creators?

Somebody in England emailed me recently and asked about songwriting. What I said to him was to trust the connections that your mind, or yourself on some level, makes between things. You can extend that to the way you empathize with other people; not dominating your own life and being willing to let the unexpected thing make sense.

Catch more Cindy on tour with Horsegirl starting this June! Also listen to their latest release, Standard Candle. You can also follow Cindy on Instagram to keep updated on their newer releases, show dates, and events.